Anticonvulsants in bipolar disorder

Vivek Singh, David J. Muzina, Joseph R. Calabrese

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


In recent years, a number of anticonvulsants have been more rigorously investigated for their potential mood-stabilizing properties. They are heterogeneous in their mechanisms of action and in their efficacy in the various mood states in bipolar illness (Table 3). At present, evidence from well-controlled studies supports the role of DIV and CBZ in the treatment of acute mania. DIV seems to have better efficacy than lithium in mixed mania or mania associated with depressive symptoms and is recommended as a first-line pharmacologic option in acutely manic or mixed manic patients [10]. Neither CBZ nor DIV have robust evidence supporting their efficacy in the treatment of acute bipolar depression, although DIV clearly possesses beneficial effects on depressive symptomatology and prophylaxis against depressive episodes during long-term treatment. Results from a large study indicate that LAM has significant efficacy in bipolar depression without the associated risks of cycle acceleration or manic/hypomanic switches. LAM should be considered a primary option in patients with bipolar depression and in bipolar II patients with rapid cycling. DIV is recommended as a first-line option in bipolar I patients with rapid cycling. LAM has proven efficacy in the prophylaxis of bipolar I disorder and should be considered along with lithium or DIV as treatment of choice in the long-term management of bipolar disorder. For the other anticonvulsants, including CBZ and OXC, there is still inadequate evidence of efficacy as monotherapy in the long-term management of bipolar disorder. Even less data exist for other available AEDs, and consensus is growing that some AEDs (eg, GBP) have little or no specific effect in bipolar disorder. Despite the progress made in the past decade, a wider therapeutic armamentarium is critically needed, because a large proportion of bipolar patients do not respond to acute treatments during a manic or depressive episode and have frequent relapse and recurrences during long-term treatment. As additional AEDs become available, rigorously designed and large-scale studies examining AEDs as monotherapy and AEDs in combination therapies versus placebo must be undertaken to assess efficacy and safety more adequately to provide better guidance for the clinician faced with the management of this challenging mood disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)301-323
Number of pages23
JournalPsychiatric Clinics of North America
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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